Second language motivation, the L2 self and English as an international language: A sociolinguistic investigation of Korean English learners' discourses in texts and contexts
Cho, Young Gyo
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This study examined the relationship between social/ national discourses on English as an international language (EIL) and two-group (high school and university) students' motivation to learn English in a particular context of Korea. Drawing on the mixed-method research design, the study first analyzed two major channels of macro-level discourses on English in Korea, i.e., English education policy and its practices/social issues in ways to define the context for students' own narratives on English learning which was sequentially analyzed in the qualitative analysis of their written texts. Then, these student discourses were reviewed quantitatively through the confirmatory investigation of the relationship between the social factors and student motivation and also their English achievement (defined by their English proficiency) using series of correlations and multiple regression analyses. The study shows that EIL is firmly established as a national discourse in Korea and this national objective is pursued via English language policy in two-layer projections, i.e., by developing national identity and by promoting the school youth's English proficiency. The analysis of students' written discourses shows that both student groups are in general highly motivated to learn English in the government's rhetoric of EIL that underscores English proficiency; but given the differing levels of self confidence and their perceived relevance of English learning, Korean students' motivational development seems unstable in many cases and their demotivation is mainly based on the current methodology of English teaching adopted in the nation, rather than the language itself, broadly indicating a gap between political ideals and classroom reality. However, these negative influences do not override students' own intrinsic interest in English itself and their desire for L2 self identity which they believe achievable through English learning. Consistent with these findings, regression analyses show that students' positive attitudes to English learning and their desire for L2 self-realization are the major predictors of English learning motivation for both student groups; but the social causes (i.e., instrumental reasons for studying English and desire for bilingual proficiency) are found not as significant predictors of their motivation but as a strong mitigator intervening between student motivation and English proficiency. The statistical findings also underscore that for both student groups, L2 linguistic self-confidence is the strong factor that mediates the causal relationship between motivation and students' proficiency of English, and this mediating effect was particularly noticeable among the university group. These findings suggest that Korean students' motivation in English learning are strongly conditioned by the social reasons, formed and reformed in the larger frame of social ideology engendered by national discourses on EIL, but the actual source of their motivation/ demotivation seems to be students' own self-confidence and their self awareness of social reality. Hence, the study now concludes that English as an international language is a strong motivator for both the nation and students; for Korea as a nation, it is a meditational tool for its survival in the global arena, and for the individual, it is a means of gaining access to their social mobility. Seen this way, Korean students' motivation to learn English is nothing more than a revelation of their initiative to realize such social aspiration.